[Senate Doc. 512, No. 247, pages 396]
TALLADEGA COUNTY, ALABAMA,
Jumper Springs, May 15, 1833.
Sir: Having received information that the census of the Creeks is taken and forwarded on to the department, and that the surveys will soon be completed. I deem it necessary to apply to the department for additional instructions.
And first, permit me to inquire if it will be my duty to correct the errors of those, who have taken the census; and if so, who are properly considered heads of families? Are those persons who have become heads of families since the treaty was concluded, entitled to reservations? Are white men and free negroes who have been long residents of the country entitled to lands?.
Some of the Indians have several wives, who sometimes live in different towns, and at a considerable distance from each other; they are allowed by the Indians to own property, not subject to the control of their husbands, and form the facility with which they can at any time dissolve their marriage contracts, it will be extremely difficult to determine who amongst them will be entitled to reserves. Please instruct me on that subject.
Where Indian improvements are on fractional sections, not so large as a half section, what is to be done in such cases? Some of those fractions are really valuable, and those who live upon them would relinquish their claims to any overplus, rather than take their reservations elsewhere.
Will it be proper, where circumstances seem to require it, to make the locations east and west, as well as north and south, viz., may the locations be so made as to give the reservee a north or a south half, as well as an east or west half section?
When at Fort Mitchell, in conversation with Eficmatla, one of the chiefs who signed the treaty, he said he had understood that it was my opinion that the Indians would have to take their reservations where the largest part of their improvements were at the time the treaty was concluded. I replied, that that was my opinion, and gave him my reasons for thinking so; he insisted that I was mistaken, and requested me to write for information on that subject, and said the President told him to direct his people to select good places, and remove to them, and that they would be entitled to them. I mentioned the subject to Colonel Crowell; he said that it was so, and that he himself heard he President tell Eficmatla to do so, and that numbers of Indians had, on the faith of what their chiefs had told them, already removed and made improvements. I met Benjamin Marshall, who was, as he told me, moving his sister from her old to a better place. Please write to me on that subject.
Many of the Indians, I have no doubt, have been induced to remove and make improvements by interested white men, who design to purchase their claims; but it is also true that a great many have done so of their own accord; with a view to better their situations. Many, however, still remain where they resided when the treaty was made, and some of them will obtain land almost entirely worthless.
In some parts of the nation, the Indians living in little villages have already agreed amongst themselves (where the lines of the surveys include more than one of their improvements in one half section) who shall relinquish their claim. But those who have given up their claims, have made improvements elsewhere, and mostly on tracts contiguous to those they had relinquished, being anxious to reside in the same neighborhood, which was originally formed for social purposes, and which is generally composed of individuals some way related to each other, these people, if it were possible (according to my instructions, and the provisions of the treaty) to gratify, I should be anxious to do it. But when I explain to them the treaty on this subject, they seem dissatisfied, and many of them have been induced to believe, by interested and designing white men, that I have it in my power, if I were so disposed, to give them their places, and frequently tell them that if they or their friend had the appointment I have, they should have them. I mention this as one of the many means which is resorted to to render the Indians dissatisfied with me; and though in some instances they have partially succeeded, I have no idea that their success will be of long continuance. One thing, however, I do know, and that is, that I am not unconscious of the high responsibility of my station, and the anxiety I fell to be serviceable to the Indians, and to discharge the duties of my appointments to the satisfaction of the department, and to merit the approbation of his excellency, the President; and to do this, all the art I shall use will be to do right, and deceive none of the parties.
If ever there was a people exposed to the machinations of speculators, it is the Creeks. A relation of the means resorted to in order to induce them to sell their lands to individuals, and to prevent them from selling to Government, would astonish the department, and fill the patriotic bosom of our Chief Magistrate with indignant disgust; suffice it to say, that the Indians character and disposition are indefatigably studied; the Government is complained against, its agents assailed in various ways, influential white men who have married natives are engaged, even the laws are pressed into their service, the Indians are at one time flattered and caressed, at another they are threatened and alarmed. I would say more, but I have trespassed already upon the patience of the department, and will conclude by observing, that if I am not deceived, they have already overdone the matter, and many of the Indians begin to understand them, and seem inclined to sell to Government. There are so many reasons which might be urged in favor of their selling to the Government, that I cannot but believe that if the proper means were used, they would see the great advantage which it would be to them, and hesitate no longer.
With great respect, & c.
ELBERT HERRING, Esq.